After taking care of business against a resurgent New York Red Bulls team, Orlando City is hitting the road as the team looks to keep pressure on the Columbus Crew and Toronto FC at the top of the Eastern Conference. The next opponent is an especially familiar one, as Orlando is heading to Mercedes-Benz stadium for yet another match against Atlanta United.
With that being the case, I spoke to Rob Usry, one of the managers over at SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer. Rob was kind enough to give us an update on how Atlanta is doing since these teams last met.
Atlanta put a 4-0 hurting on D.C. United in the team’s last game, and Adam Jahn, who we talked about before the last time these two teams played, bagged a goal. Jahn also scored the stoppage time equalizer against Orlando back in September. Goals aside, has he been playing better?
Rob Usry: We have to give a ton of credit to Adam Jahn this season. He should have never been in the position that he’s in currently of being relied on heavily to produce. Replacing Josef Martinez is an impossible task, but being the expected backup with limited MLS success and being asked to fill his shoes has to be a daunting proposition.
To Jahn’s credit, he’s improved drastically over the last month of play. Even his harshest critics have come to realize that he has a value at this level of play. His hold-up play has gotten better, linking up with Jon Gallagher and Brooks Lennon very nicely. He’s even added another headed goal since that masterpiece against the Lions. We’re under no illusions that Jahn will be a star in MLS, but the outlook of his impact is looking a lot better than it was when the Five Stripes left Orlando a couple of months ago.
One of the big talking points for Atlanta lately has been Homegrown Player George Bello. What is your opinion of the young defender?
RU: To put it simply, he’s been the Man of the Season for Atlanta so far. In a poor year he’s been something the club can hang their hat on as proof that they are beginning to get player development right. He’s as calm and composed as you’ll ever see a teenager. Sure he may make a mistake or two, but it never fazes him. Bello adds a dynamic to the attacking end while providing a reliability on the left side of the defense that is crucial to any team. He still has plenty of room to grow, but there’s no doubt that he has an extremely bright future along with being a very nice piece for the present.
Atlanta is currently in eighth place in the East and has won two of its last three games. Is the team heading in the right direction?
RU: Who knows? This season doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Just look all over the league and the world. Up is down, down is up, Orlando is a world-beater. This Atlanta United team isn’t very good but the chemistry is steadily building and the belief among the players is still present. If they can start to build some momentum and play together as a team, they could possibly stay above that playoff line at season’s end and have something to show for what has overall been a rotten campaign.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
RU: Ha! Strangely enough this is a touchy subject around the Atlanta United community. The club has been strangely mysterious surrounding their injuries. Specifically with Ezequiel Barco, who has missed four straight games with what has only publicly been described as a “knock.” Who the heck knows what his status is for this match? Matheus Rossetto is also on the mend the past few matches and probably won’t feature in the starting lineup, but could return to the matchday squad.
Starting Lineup Prediction (4-2-3-1): Brad Guzan; Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes, George Bello; Eric Remedi, Mo Adams; Brooks Lennon, Emerson Hyndman, Jon Gallagher; Adam Jahn.
Score prediction: 2-1 Orlando City
Big thanks to Rob for bringing us up to speed on Atlanta United, and vamos Orlando!